Event review: #Croydon #TechCity, Thursday 20th November at Matthews Yard

By - Monday 29th December, 2014

Kissing frogs and making money in Croydon. Bernadette Fallon reports

The Croydon Tech City team: Nigel Dias, Jonny Rose and Sarah Luxford.
Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Here’s a question: what do the following have in common? An expat who set up a website to sell Bollywood films across the world from Croydon, a mum who came up with a way to improve children’s emotional intelligence and a guy who founded a clever internet guide. The answer is Croydon Tech City. And this diversity is the beauty of it.

All have had a great idea and they’ve gone on to develop it into a business. I really admire the people I hear speak at the monthly Tech City presentations. I have ideas all the time… some of them may even be good ideas. But I never get round to doing anything with them. Well okay, I’m being hard on myself here – occasionally I jot them down on a piece of paper. What I don’t do is haul my ideas around from door to door and face the rejection of having all those doors slammed in my face.

There is no failure – there is only feedback

“I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said no,” says Erika Brodnock, CEO of Karisma Kidz, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs.” Karisma Kidz is a platform that encourages children to play their way to emotional literacy and utilise tools and techniques that will nurture mental wellbeing and promote resilience. The first version of the app has been downloaded more than 40,000 times, with the aim of reaching a million monthly active users by the end of 2016. Studies are currently being carried out by two UK universities to measure the platform’s success rate. But the anecdotal evidence is already there.

Erika Brodnock, CEO of Karisma Kidz.
Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

‘From tantrums to tranquillity in the home,’ is how Erika describes it – pointing out that it’s important to have a snappy line that sums up your business.

One of her most difficult rejections came from Dragons’ Den. But, as she points out, “There is no failure, there is only feedback.” It’s an important lesson for any start-up to take on board – and it will make it easier to kiss all of those frogs.

Passion and tech know-how aren’t always enough

A business that has passed the stage of frog-kissing is Nickelled. First presented as a fledging idea at Tech City by founder David Batey a year ago, it has taken £50K – £100K in its first year of trading (cue impressed collective intake of breath in the Tech City auditorium) and counts Gumtree among its clients. It’s a clever idea, allowing website owners to create interactive examples of their site so that their customers get the best from their service. It can illustrate user journeys and demonstrate navigation options, allowing sites to achieve their full potential. There were plenty of questions from the audience following David’s presentation, and also a few suggestions for extending the service – so maybe this time next year we’ll see Nickelled 2.0 back at Tech City!

David Batey, Founder of Nickelled, shows first year progress.
Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

The final presentation of the evening came from Gopinath Nanthakumaar, co-founder of VUiN, a company with an audience of over 29 million people globally for its product. It’s an online video-on-demand service, allowing Bollywood fans around the world to watch the latest film releases and browse its archives, with over 1,000 films available to view. In additional to Indian films, subscribers can also access Indian TV shows, trailers, film news and celebrity gossip.

We’re young, we don’t want to go and sit on a beach just yet

It was the brainchild of a film fanatic, who joined forces with a team of passionate entrepreneurs to make it happen, explains Gopi. But passion and tech know-how aren’t always enough and the company’s biggest problem was lack of business experience, he admits. He advises any start-up to get business guidance at the early stages, to get somebody with the relevant experience on the team. Instead the VUiN team put their own money into the business to get it off the ground, which meant they couldn’t develop as fast as they wanted to.

Gopi Nanthakumaar, Co-founder of Vuin.
Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

“Raise the finance while you’re still developing the product,” he says, “You need to have guts and determination, and be prepared to fight to get what you want.” His final piece of wisdom is to follow your dreams, and it appears that his dreams are being realized as the business is now attracting buy-out offers. It’s an enviable position to be in, but the team aren’t biting. “We’re young, we don’t want to go and sit on a beach just yet,” he says. Nice work if you can get it.

Is your start-up next on the list to fund a beach-lifestyle? If so, get along to Croydon Tech City and tell everybody about it.

For more information visit the Croydon Tech City website here.

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

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